Born in the San Miguelito district of the Panamá Province in Panama, Nino Augustine began writing music and playing with arrangements when he was just seven years old. Although he had family members who occasionally dabbled in singing, his interest in performance and composition wasn’t the result of any familial prodding. Oddly enough, Augustine’s passion first began to develop after watching a pair of popular novela musicals as a child.
“When I was about five there was this famous novela musical called Escalona in which Colombian singer Carlos Vives played the lead role,” Augustine recalls. “That changed my life because it told the story of an actual singer from the beginning stages and I just fell in love with the idea. Then maybe two years later there was this other novela musical by Salserín, a Venezuelan salsa kid group, that was like the next coming of Menudo, and it was amazing to me to see these kids that were almost my age singing and writing these songs, so my cousins and I started writing and singing songs. I knew I wanted to be an artist after that. It had so much influence on me at that early age.”
Growing up, Augustine immersed himself in the tropical sounds of salsa, reggae, Afro-Cuban, and Latin jazz being composed by Panamanian greats like Rubén Blades, Omar Alfanno, and El General. From there, his interests expanded to include dancehall, ragga, and reggaeton as he began exploring the music of up-and-coming local artists such as El Roockie, Kafu Banton, Nando Boom, and others. Although he has lived in the United States since he was ten, Augustine has held firm to his Panamanian heritage and credits the aforementioned artists for helping to motivate him and shape his identity. “In this small country, the talent has always been there and it’s my mission to continue what they started,” he says. “Any chance I get I will mention their names, because they changed my life.”
Since moving to Atlanta from New Jersey in 2012, Augustine has shifted his music career into high gear, forming the O.P.E. (Only Positive Energy) band and surrounding himself with like-minded musicians and creatives who have helped provide “the platform and freedom [he] was seeking as an artist.” In mid 2016, he began working with friend and producer Smoov Sinatra on a new solo project, one that has sought to tap deep into Augustine’s Panamanian origins by blending the eclectic Caribbean vibes and world sounds he’s been exploring his entire life.
The first single from this collaboration is the hypnotic and soulful “Treat You Better,” the video for which we’re excited to premiere today. Featuring choreography from Terry Jones, the video was shot by videographer Isaiah Jones at Bonfire ATL, and showcases Atlanta dancers Ashley Young, Erica Malone, and Andrell Smith whose lithe movements accentuate the song’s sultry energy and nimble dancehall grooves. As for Augustine, he himself barely appears in the clip; for him it was more important that the final production be as resonant and reflective of his music as possible. “I’m always paying attention to different music scenes around the world and what people are getting into,” he says,”and I saw that choreographed dance videos were another way for the audience to connect with the song.”
Watch it above.